What do you think would happen to a high school teacher if he/she decided not to teacher students anything about Booker T. Washington, George Carver, Dred Scott, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas or Martin Luther King Jr. because they are black and the students are mostly white? Do you think it would help their case if they tried to explain their racist views by claiming that their mostly white students wouldn’t relate to the lessons learned by studying the famous black people?
I imagine the teacher who tried that would quickly be disciplined and possibly even fired for being racist. However, I doubt if that will happen to a teacher who does the same thing only reversed – refusing to teach about a famous person because that person was white and the students are mostly inner-city minorities.
Meet Dana Dusbiber, an English teacher at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, California. She has decided to not teacher her English students anything about the most famous English author of all time, William Shakespeare. Even though studying Shakespeare is a requirement for high school in the Common Core English Language Arts standards, Dusbiber says she will not teach any Shakespeare to her students.
Dusbiber defended her stance in a letter she sent to The Washington Post, stating:
“I am a high school English teacher. I am not supposed to dislike Shakespeare. But I do. And not only do I dislike Shakespeare because of my own personal disinterest in reading stories written in an early form of the English language that I cannot always easily navigate, but also because there is a WORLD of really exciting literature out there that better speaks to the needs of my very ethnically-diverse and wonderfully curious modern-day students…”
“I am sad that so many of my colleagues teach a canon that some white people decided upon so long ago and do it without question. I am sad that we don’t believe enough in ourselves as professionals to challenge the way that it has “always been done.” I am sad that we don’t reach beyond our own often narrow beliefs about how young people become literate to incorporate new research on how teenagers learn, and a belief that our students should be excited about what they read — and that may often mean that we need to find the time to let them choose their own literature…”
“What I worry about is that as long as we continue to cling to ONE (white) MAN’S view of life as he lived it so long ago, we (perhaps unwittingly) promote the notion that other cultural perspectives are less important. In the 25 years that I have been a secondary teacher, I have heard countless times, from respected teachers (mostly white), that they will ALWAYS teach Shakespeare, because our students need Shakespeare and his teachings on the human condition.
“So I ask, why not teach the oral tradition out of Africa, which includes an equally relevant commentary on human behavior? Why not teach translations of early writings or oral storytelling from Latin America or Southeast Asia other parts of the world? Many, many of our students come from these languages and traditions. Why do our students not deserve to study these ‘other’ literatures with equal time and value? And if time is the issue in our classrooms, perhaps we no longer have the time to study the Western canon that so many of us know and hold dear.”
“Here then, is my argument: If we only teach students of color, as I have been fortunate to do my entire career, then it is far past the time for us to dispense with our Eurocentric presentation of the literary world. Conversely, if we only teach white students, it is our imperative duty to open them up to a world of diversity through literature that they may never encounter anywhere else in their lives. I admit that this proposal, that we leave Shakespeare out of the English curriculum entirely, will offend many.”
So let me get this straight. Dusbiber doesn’t want to teach her mostly black students about Shakespeare because he was white and they won’t relate to him because she didn’t relate to him. Yet she also says that white students SHOULD be taught ethnically oriented material to ‘open them up to a world of diversity.’ I find her reasoning to be extremely racist and discriminatory against whites and lacking any sense of logic. According to her, black students don’t need white diversity but white students should be taught black diversity.
Chances are, not only will Dusbiber not be disciplined for being a racist, but will be hailed as a hero standing up for the black cause. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Barack Obama invite her to the White House and honor her for her racist attitudes that she is teaching her students.